Does simply having lots of stuff/data on your PC slow it down/harm it?

Once when I still had Windows XP on my machine I had to take it to a repair shop because for some reason my computer just became so slow that Windows outright started to just freeze and stop responding at random moments. The guys who took my PC told me that this was because I had filled it with so much crap. I then got Windows 7 instead which I still use.

However, I still am not really sure how this works.

Is merely having lots of stuff on your hard drive enough to slow it down and harm it? For example I have roughly 1 TB of hard drive space on my PC, so if I have 600 GB worth of video games installed, then would the share number of games installed on my machine just bring my machine to a crawl and make Windows very slow (perhaps even to a point of ceasing to work like Windows XP?)?

The guy at the repair shop gave me this advice: "If you aren't using it right now, then don't have it on your PC. If you aren't playing that video game, then just uninstall it". How correct is this statement?

The reason I ask is because my PC acted a bit funny this morning. It was super slow and unresponsive for some reason, and I even had to turn it off unconventionally (this of course gave me the "windows did not shut down correctly" message after I turned it back on). However after I turned it back on it appears to work just fine with no real slowdown I can notice.

Also, can newer OS's like Windows 7 withstand more crap being on your PC then Xp?

Well, anyone?

EDIT: One thing I would like to ask also: If having too much stuff on your PC is bad, then what is the point of having large amounts of HD space?

Also, does stuff like video files slow down your PC in the same way as installing a program or a video game? Or do some things slow down your PC more then others?

EDIT: STEAM says I have 91 video games installed! Yikes! That's not counting the ones who aren't on STEAM...

Yes and no.

Windows XP's registry was notorious for becoming cluttered and slowing things down. Too many things opening at start up etc could also contribute.

This is less true of 7 but it still can be worth while to keep an eye on.

One thing I would like to ask also: If having too much stuff on your PC is bad, then what is the point of having large amounts of HD space?

Also, does stuff like video files slow down your PC in the same way as installing a program or a video game? Or do some things slow down your PC more then others?

If you're computer is low on RAM it will use your hard drive as virtual memory, so if you're RAM is used up and your hard drive is full it will run slower. The computer also uses some empty hard drive space to index file locations so it can access them faster. However that's also talking about filling your hard drive completely up, not just a little over halfway.

Could he be talking about background programs? Running things like Steam or rainmeter can slow down your PC if you get enough of them.

The only slowdown I've had from filling my hard drive up was it not enough virtual memory to play games, it would still do anything less demanding just fine. That was on my old computer too which was XP, I've filled up this computers which runs 7 and never had any issues but I can't say if it's the OS or the better hardware.

Edit: For your question on bigger HDD, it's so you have hold more stuff before you PC runs out of room. Having too much on your HDD isn't a set amount of gigs used, but gigs free (I think, unless someone more knowledgeable would like to correct me). If you have 498 gigs on a 500 gig drive, you may get issues. If you have 498 on a terabyte drive you'll have less issues.

damn my english skills...

Having a lot of data on your HDD can indeed be a reason for a slow running computer, but normally you shouldn't notice until your drive is nearly full.
What is more likely to be cause of a slow running computer is fragmentation of data, meaning files aren't stored as a compact "chunk" of data but instead bytes of one and the same file must be searched all over the HDD. This can take time. At the same time saving a new big block of data can be a problem since it has to be stored fragmented too.

Fragmentation can be "cured" though, simply use the Windows intern defragmentation tool or search for a free/paid solution online. (O&O Defrag comes to my mind)

A second source of slowdown could be programs running in the background, but this has nothing todo with your HDD (not necessarily) but rather with your RAM and processor.

Hope this is understandable. It's late, I'm tired, and english was never my strength...

Mirthen:

What is more likely to be cause of a slow running computer is fragmentation of data

Disc defragmenter says all of my drives are 0% fragmented. However, when I use the analize button it doesn't give me any message after it has finished analizing.

Mirthen:
damn my english skills...

Having a lot of data on your HDD can indeed be a reason for a slow running computer, but normally you shouldn't notice until your drive is nearly full.
What is more likely to be cause of a slow running computer is fragmentation of data, meaning files aren't stored as a compact "chunk" of data but instead bytes of one and the same file must be searched all over the HDD. This can take time. At the same time saving a new big block of data can be a problem since it has to be stored fragmented too.

Fragmentation can be "cured" though, simply use the Windows intern defragmentation tool or search for a free/paid solution online. (O&O Defrag comes to my mind)

A second source of slowdown could be programs running in the background, but this has nothing todo with your HDD (not necessarily) but rather with your RAM and processor.

Hope this is understandable. It's late, I'm tired, and english was never my strength...

Fragmentation isn't a big problem under NTFS since it's not got to track things on a file allocation table. It's usually to do with low physical ram and a big Virtual Memory cash. VM is slow as shit compared to physical ram, even on a SSD.

Hardcore_gamer:
One thing I would like to ask also: If having too much stuff on your PC is bad, then what is the point of having large amounts of HD space?

Also, does stuff like video files slow down your PC in the same way as installing a program or a video game? Or do some things slow down your PC more then others?

No, the slow down isn't to do with storage so much as accessing that storage and that it's slow compared to most of the rest of the system.

Hardcore_gamer:

Disc defragmenter says all of my drives are 0% fragmented. However, when I use the analize button it doesn't give me any message after it has finished analizing.

Well I asume you are using the Windows defragmentation tool. Tested it myself just now and it tells me I'm 0% fragmented, since this isn't true I suspect the windows defragmentation tool is still buggy (as it was in Windows XP if I recall correctly)

Maybe try out the trial version of O&O defrag (http://www.oo-software.com/en/download/current/oodefragpro).
This should yield better results in scanning and defragmentation.

Under normal circumstances you don't even need to bother since it's not that much of a problem most of the time, but fragmentation tends to get worse the more data you are storing.
Personally I'm using O&O defrag once every 6 month or so, just out of habit, once a year would probably suffice.

Hardcore_gamer:
The guy at the repair shop gave me this advice: "If you aren't using it right now, then don't have it on your PC. If you aren't playing that video game, then just uninstall it". How correct is this statement?

EDIT: STEAM says I have 91 video games installed! Yikes! That's not counting the ones who aren't on STEAM...

As far as games, music, videos and documents go, that's completely wrong. The only thing limiting how much of those you can have at any one time without issue is HDD space. (Of course, if HDD space is limited, uninstalling what you aren't using is common sense).
For instance, Steam says I have 149 games installed and it runs no different than with 49, or 9.

What can become harmful as it piles up are programs you install that automatically start themselves (or components thereof) with Windows. The more crap you have on these lists, the slower Windows will start and possibly perform if it all stays running in the background:

image
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Hoplon:

Fragmentation isn't a big problem under NTFS since it's not got to track things on a file allocation table. It's usually to do with low physical ram and a big Virtual Memory cash. VM is slow as shit compared to physical ram, even on a SSD.

As I stated in my post above: It is under normal cicumstances not a problem. But since he asked, and it's one of things that might cause slowdown effects and are correlate to HDD I wanted to mention it.

The biggest slowdown problem a HDD can cause is simply related to a HDD being slow. (compared to other storage devices) So alot of programms writing/reading to/from it are going to slow the computer down, as well as a lack of RAM since this would result in less data beeing stored there->more pagemisses->more asking the HDD->slower running program.

This is a surprisingly good question and the answer isn;t a simple yes or no.

To get a clear answer you need to understand a few thing about how your system works.

Lets clarify a few things, first putting more data on your HDD will slow it down, but the value of slow is so low that a normal person would not notice. A HDD consists of platters these are basically circle discs on to which the data is written. The data is written and read by a head that is mechanically moved back and forth across the disc. When the disc is not being read or written to the head will be placed in a safe location on the disc (this means that if the disc where to suddenly lose power the head would not crash in to a sensitive area of the disc causing lose of data)

When a disc is new and their is nothing on it then most data will be written near the the point where the disc head is put to rest, as the disc space is used up data gets written further and further from this point meaning that the read / write head has to be moved further across the disc to access the data. So yes more data does slow it down due to the read/write head having to travel further put we are talking milliseconds here, literally time you would never notice.

The other factor that comes in to play with this read/write head movement issue is how data is written. Say you have a word file you want to save. Windows will split that file up in to several lumps of data and then save them on the first parts of the disc large enough to accomodate them. On a new disc chances are those locations will be sequential meaning that the entire file is stored in one place on the drive meaning the read/write head only has to move once to get the whole file. On an older drive it may end up having to save the lumps of data all over the disc platter meaning that the read/write head has to make move movements to find the entire file. Defragmenting the drive basically gets these lumps of data and sticks them together in the same place so they can be accessed quickly. Of course we are again talking about a difference of milliseconds here, in fact chances are you will spend more time actually defragging the drive than you would ever manage to save through the increased of access.

The real slow down comes from other issues with the way Windows works, these cane be split in to a few key areas

Drivers
Start Up
Registry

These all have the same thing in common specifically the type of data you apply to them, storing videos or pictures won't really cause any slow down beyond what I listed above. Programs that however install additional drivers, add start up programs or modify the registry WILL slow your system down.

Drivers, Windows has a nasty habit of running just about any and all drivers that are installed when you boot up, even for devices that aren't currently connected to your computer. Best case scenario you have a little bit of additonal access time at boot, worst case scenario Windows boots and tries to run a driver for a device that isn't installed meaning the actual device doesn't work, I had two mouse drivers installed at one point and every other boot or so my mouse would refuse to work.

Startup, basically a program or service that runs at startup, taking more memory and additional CPU processing time really simple to see why this would slow your computer down.

Registry, the Windows Registry has a habit of holding on to stuff that you may well have removed from your system long ago, think of it as a sign post to a street that no longer exists. Usually the results are just a series of error msgs in the event viewer logs but sometimes it can lead to messages telling you that Windows can't find such and such a file, again if the system is spending time looking for something that doesn't exist it is not hard to see why it would slow your system down.

Hardcore_gamer:
One thing I would like to ask also: If having too much stuff on your PC is bad, then what is the point of having large amounts of HD space?

Also, does stuff like video files slow down your PC in the same way as installing a program or a video game? Or do some things slow down your PC more then others?

If your PC is being slowed down it can use excess HD space to help make up for lack of Ram and CPU so having a very full hard drive means you have less space. Basically it is a percentage of HD available more than a over all number of files.

EDIT: Others answered way better than me you are better off listening to them

Hardcore_gamer:

Well, anyone?
EDIT: One thing I would like to ask also: If having too much stuff on your PC is bad, then what is the point of having large amounts of HD space?
Also, does stuff like video files slow down your PC in the same way as installing a program or a video game? Or do some things slow down your PC more then others?
EDIT: STEAM says I have 91 video games installed! Yikes! That's not counting the ones who aren't on STEAM...

With Win 7, as a rule of thumb as long as 5-10% of the drive, or about 10gb is free (preferably whichever is more) you shouldn't see any performance issues.
Having music or video sat on your drive will do it no harm at all and will not decrease system performance.

Generally the only slowness associated with HDDs is if you have fragmented drive, though this would typically only be apparent when you were accessing that data (for example in game loadscreens or by copying media to another hard drive). But it will not make windows itself run slow.

Anyhow, you can defragment a drive by searching for 'disk defragmenter' in the start menu, selecting analyse, and then defragmenting if it recommends it.

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Generally system slowness is caused by too little RAM rather than too little HDD space.
You can check how much RAM you have and how much is being used with Task Manager. Go to the 'Performance' tab, then to 'Resource Monitor', then select the 'Memory' tab. For reference, the screengrab at that link shows that about 2/3 of the RAM is being used in that system.

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You can also remove any programs you don't really use in the 'add/remove programs' section of Control panel.
I wouldn't remove anything you're likely to use again (games for example), but if there's software trials, adware or other assorted crap that you've never used then it can be uninstalled.

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Lastly and most importantly, it's certainly worth removing startup programs that you don't actually use. You can do this by following the guide in bold below.
I would strongly recommend doing this before any of the other things, because it will most likely make the biggest difference.

Generally you can safely disable anything that isn't hardware-related or an antivirus.
If you aren't sure though, screengrab the list of startup prgrams and post it, and we can check which ones you can remove. How to get to that list is covered in the bolded guide.

Some guides:

Removing startup programs: http://social.technet.microsoft.com/wiki/contents/articles/758.disable-and-enable-windows-7-startup-programs.aspx

Defragging: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-gb/windows-vista/improve-performance-by-defragmenting-your-hard-disk

Removing programs: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-gb/windows-vista/uninstall-or-change-a-program

Hope that helps, get back to me if it's not clear!

 

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